$Billions Cost of War on Terror to Pakistan

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Dr Shahid Qureshi : –

I asked a panel of terrorism and security experts including Sir Hilary Synot, Jonathan Paris of Hudson Institute to comment at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security on 3rd December 2007, (a) going to war without a plan is bad but having no exit strategy is even worse (b) ‘it is said that lot of aid has been offered to Pakistan since 2001 but in actual fact Pakistan’s economy suffered $10 billion in three years between 2001 –  2004 according a report published by the US Central Command in 2004.

Keeping in view the continuation of the war for another three years up 2007 Pakistan’s economy has suffered $20 billion or more in total in the support of Global War on terror. Khurshid Kasuri former foreign minister of Pakistan gave me an off the record explanation about the 2004 US Central Command report which was not valid at all. That money could have been spent on poverty elevation, education, health, housing, and research. But countries like Pakistan don’t have enough resources like developed UK, EU and US. The environmental problem is borderless and need to have international dimension.

Critics are of the opinion that defence industry flourished after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in the United States? But poor countries like Pakistan have suffered heavy human and economic losses for example, if NATO would deploy the same number of troops as Pakistan around 100,000 the cost would be in billions of dollars? Pakistan’s economy will collapse if Afghanistan failed to stand up on its feet. There are many players in Afghanistan who have their own agenda. Some are worried about drugs, some are worried about terrorism and some are interested in gas, copper and uranium but no one is worried about basic commodities like wheat, rice, cooking oil, petrol etc.

There are two million refugees in Pakistan who need to be fed for many decades. Millions of tons wheat, rice, sugar and cooking oil is being smuggled into Afghanistan to meet the demands. Wheat, rice, oil and sugar prices have shot up in Pakistan may be due to mafia lead policies of the government? Pakistan should not have any problem in helping their Afghan brothers without putting itself in danger. When resources of Pakistan are being diverted into right left and centre nothing left to invest in environment and study global warming?

Great nations keep an eye on future but also learn from the past successes and mistakes. Knowledge is and always will be a powerful weapon. Brits have been good at research and establishing their own institutions. Though in last 60 years the British Empire has shrunk but the love and quest for knowledge is never ending. On 9th November 2007 Foreign and Commonwealth Office arranged a visit of London based foreign journalists to National Oceanography Centre Southampton affiliated with the University of Southampton.

Oceans are the key part of the Earth system. They cover almost three quarters of Earth’s surface and hold over nine-tenths of the planets water. We use and exploit them food, energy and materials, and they play a vital role in regulating global climate. But the oceans are changing; average temperatures are increasing causing sea levels to rise and contributing to coral bleaching. By the end of the century seas will be more acidic than any time over past 25 million years because they are absorbing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Although many uncertainties surround the future state of our seas, such changes will inevitably affect marine productivity and the global carbon cycle, atmospheric compositions, weather patterns and coastal landscapes, making the oceans focus for National Environment Council Research (NERC) research. NERC’s new state of the art ship ‘RSS James Cook’ is the latest addition to its fleet of oceanographic research vessels. This ship is designed to take scientists to the most challenging place of this earth. The ship has eight science laboratories and can accommodate 31 scientists and 23 officers and crew. Brits are spending quite a substantial amount of money on dual-purpose research both for civilian and military.

I asked about the rising sea levels and future of the investment in Palm Island Dubai, which seems in danger keeping view the global warming and rising sea levels. Many believe this ambitious plan is waste of resources in which machines are digging sand from the sea 24/7 to keep the islands alive, not to mention its negative affects on environment and shore line according to National Geographic documentary. Instead of investing in colleges, universities, research projects money is being wasted in sea and sand?

Pakistan and Britain have lot of potential to co-operate in research projects from environment, water purification to defence. I asked Foreign Secretary Jack Straw would Britain help Pakistan in building dams as in the past? While talking to me exclusively after seeing off a Hajj delegation two years ago he said ‘Britain would help Pakistan building new dams’.

(Dr Shahid Qureshi is senior award wining investigative journalist and writer on security, foreign policy, and terrorism based in London)

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